Bernstein’s short note: Jude is so named by Luke and Acts. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddeus. He is not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, except, of course, where all the apostles are mentioned.
Legend has it that Jude was born into a Jewish family in Paneas, a town in the Galilee portion of ancient Palestine, the same region that Jesus grew up in. He probably spoke Greek and Aramaic, like many of his contemporaries in that area, and he was a farmer (as many of his family were) by trade.
Jude was described by St. Matthew (13:55) as being one of the “brethren” of Jesus, probably meaning a cousin since the Hebrew word for “brethren” indicates a blood relationship. His mother, Mary, was referred to as a cousin of Jesus’ mother Mary, while his father, Cleophas, was the brother of Joseph.
Jude had several brothers, including James, who was another of the original Apostles. His own first name, “Jude”, means giver of joy, while “Thaddeus”, another name he was called, means generous and kind.
He was later married, had at least one child, and there are references to his grandchildren living as late as 95 A.D.
Jude was then called to be one of Jesus 12 Apostles, and began preaching the Good News of Jesus to Jews throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Jude went to Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) around 37 A.D., and became a leader of the Church of The East that Thomas established there. Jude was a true internationalist, traveling throughout Mesopotamia, Libya, Turkey, and Persia with St. Simon, preaching and converting many people to Christianity. He was credited with helping the early creation of the Armenian church, and other places beyond the borders of the Roman Empire.
Around the year 60 A.D., Jude wrote a Gospel letter to recent Christian converts in Eastern churches who were under persecution. In it, he warned them against the false teachers of the day who were spreading false ideas about the early Christian faith. He encouraged them to persevere in the face of the harsh, difficult circumstances they were in, just as their forefathers had done before them. He exhorted them to keep their faith and to stay in the love of God as they had been taught. His inspirational support of these early believers led to him becoming the patron saint of desperate cases. Joshua Brumbach has written a superb commentary on the book of Jude from a Messianic perspective:
Jude: On Faith and the Destructive Influence of Heresy (A Messianic Jewish Commentary). Joshua Brumbach. USA: Lederer, USA, 2014.
Like the book of Jude itself, this short commentary punches above its weight. Brumbach introduces the book and its author in an easily accessible way, drawing from the cutting edge of contemporary biblical scholarship. He also, from his own distinctive Messianic Jewish perspective, takes us to the heart of the text and its meaning for Israel and the nations. If you want to understand more of the significance of Yeshua (Jesus) as seen by one of his own brothers then, and by a leading Jewish believer in Yeshua today, I thoroughly recommend his book.
Jude is believed to have been martyred in Persia or Syria around 65 A.D. The axe or club that he is often shown holding in pictures symbolizes the way in which he was killed. Thus he paid the ultimate price for his faith. After his death his body was brought back to Rome and was placed in a crypt beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, which people visit to this day
Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand or close to his chest. This idea comes from a Biblical story in which King Abgar of Edessa (a city located in what is now southeast Turkey) asked Jesus to cure him of leprosy and sent an artist to bring him a drawing of Jesus. Impressed with Abgar’s great faith, Jesus pressed his face into a cloth and gave it to St. Jude to take to Abgar. Upon seeing Jesus’ image, The King was cured and he converted to Christianity along with most of the people under his rule. This cloth is believed to be the famous Shroud of Jesus which is currently on display in Turin, Italy.
Jude is often shown in paintings with a flame around his head. This represents his presence at Pentecost, when he received the Holy Spirit with the other apostles.
Devotion to St. Jude has continued to grow in the present day as the ‘patron saint of lost causes’. Jude is invoked in desperate situations because his letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Roman Catholics pray directly to St Jude. How do I as a Messianic Jew pray? The most appropriate prayer would be Jude’s own entreaty – if you have time take a few minutes to reflect on it and use it for your own prayers – Happy St Jude’s day!
Jude 1:17-25 (ESV)
A Call to Persevere
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Joshua Brumbach, A Messianic Commentary: Jude – on Faith and the Destructive Influence of Heresy (Lederer: Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2014)